Westfield, Brocton bring back traditional ‘snake’ weave, bonfire

The snake dance winds its way through Moore Park led by senior class president Jimmy Wolfe and Hans.

Residents of Westfield who witnessed a hundred-foot “snake” weaving its way through the downtown area recently, called out family members, snapped pictures and asked one another “What’s going on?”

The snake was actually comprised of dozens of high school students from Brocton High School and Westfield Academy and Central School who wound their way from Moore Park to Welch Field where a bonfire was lit as part of school spirit week.

As the ‘snake” wound its way through the streets, Westfield police officials blocked intersections to protect the students. Member of the Westfield Fire Department were on hand at Welch Field to light the bonfire.

Both traditions — the snake dance and the bonfire — have been revived after being absent from WACS homecoming celebrations for more than 20 years.

High School Principal Ivana Hite said, “Parents asked whatever happened to the snake dance and the bonfire?” So I thought, “Let’s see if we can do it.”

It wasn’t as difficult as she initially thought it would be, Hite said, although it involved the whole community. Hite said she met with high school student government adviser Ashley Carlson, Village of Westfield Recreation Director Andrew Webster, Village Administrator Vincent Luce, representatives from the Westfield police and fire departments, and, basically, everybody who was going to be involved. “We met at Welch Field to check the size of the field and so see “‘what you can do and what you can’t do,'” she said.

WACS alumna Tricia Schuster said, “I’ve been begging Mrs. Hite to bring back the snake dance and bonfire to help show school spirit.” They used to have the bonfire at the school and the juniors used to build it, Schuster said, and they had the snake dance for homecoming. “I don’t think they’ve had it since 1992 or ’93,” she added.

Senior Kayla Nichols said she was excited. “It’s been a really long time since anything like this has happened. I think the last time was when my dad was in school.”

Nichols said she felt the revival of the traditions would help to increase school spirit. “Last year, a lot of students didn’t take part in Spirit Week,” she said. “Getting together all of these people is great because it helps everyone break out of their shells and have fun.”

Fellow senior Sarah Okerlund agreed. “I think there are a lot of kids who distance themselves from Spirit Week. When there are events like this and their friends are going, it helps them get out there and take part,” she said.

Carlson, the student government advisor, said that the response to the return of the snake dance and the bonfire was “touch-and-go at first.” However, more and more students got involved as the day drew closer.

“I feel like the kids are excited to bring back some of the traditions,” she said. “My goal is to let them take control of events like this and have fun doing it.”

Westfield seniors were responsible for coming up with a route that would be approved by village officials, Hite said. Senior Class President Jimmy Wolfe and his dog Hans led the dance, which threaded its way through Moore Park, up South Portage Street, across First Street, Union Street, Second Street, up Portage Street to Third Street, and to Welch field. “I mapped out the route we’d take,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe, who is on the soccer team, said he plays with quite a few Brocton athletes. “This gives everybody a chance to have some time with Brocton before the (homecoming) dance itself,” he said.

Brocton Student Council Advisor Mimi Joint said, “I’m excited that Brocton was invited and it seems like the kids are really excited about it.” A lot of underclassmen came, Joint said. “They’re enthusiastic and willing to try new things,” she added.